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prufrock

The Chicago Botanic Garden is a serene and wondrous place.  As a family, my husband and I spent the day before my father’s 85th birthday walking the outdoor gardens there with my father and our daughter and her boyfriend. We had a beautiful day exploring, bonding, reflecting, pondering and reminiscing.  The perfect wind down after the exhilaration of a big family party the evening before.

It was fascinating seeing the fruit and vegetable, Japanese, English and Waterfall Gardens, as well as watching each person in our party studying the various floras.  The weather was just cool enough for a light jacket; the wind consistently fierce but gentle, a wonder unto itself.  Surprising for late October, many of the leaves on the trees were still green, while the maples blared with mostly unfallen color.

I had the best time shooting photographs, a therapy and an art explored more enthusiastically since my head injury–a new and more manageable way of reading, a sort of devolution from text to image…a simple and yet complex matter of what lights up in the brain.  A way to harness my heart and imagination–an exploration of shape, pattern, color, depth and texture.  I wonder how many painters begin as photographers, or vice versa?  The connection, if any, between image and musical score?  While exploring, I read of something Japanese garden designers of the Edo period (1600-1868) referred to as “borrowed scenery,” which was said to be inspired by inkwash landscape paintings, where they created gardens of distant views that included both garden and vista incorporated into one scene, an expanse one might liken to that of a painting.

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Although we had to push my father in a wheelchair, since he’s no longer able to walk a mile on his own, everyone was happy throughout the four mile trek.  I easily reached my step goal for the day, but most importantly, we had valuable time together and even to ourselves.  I kept thinking how happy I felt after all I have been through, despite the static of so many other unhappy people.  Throughout the day I was amazed by the poignant fact that a person can feel peace and such joy after enduring seemingly insuperable losses. I remember the moments it didn’t feel I could survive, and yet I had somehow found my way back to my own core; it seemed astonishing to be right there, experiencing this at last.  I felt connected to my loved ones, yet utterly individual and separate from them, alone in my own marvel at it all, knowing the palpable reality of our own human vulnerability.

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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

This is Day 20 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue

#write31days

© debra valentino, all rights reserved, www.firstlightofevening.com

U.K. Celebrates National Poetry Day

internet image, source and photographer unknown

internet image, source and photographer unknown

I am going to interrupt my regularly scheduled blog post on this 8th day of the Write 31 Days challenge, because today is National Poetry Day in the U.K. and Ireland.

It is always a good day to celebrate poetry.  Poetry helps not only with fatigue, but really–with everything.  If you know me at all, you know that I am all about poetry.

I write it, I read it, I study it, I teach it, I live it, I love it.

Poetry has sustained me throughout my life, including the darkest times, which include my recovery from acquired traumatic brain injury.

I encourage you to read and even share some poetry today…

You can find posts online under the hashtag #NationalPoetryDay

Here are some poems to get you started, the favorite poems of a collection of readers and writers.

It is difficult to choose a favorite poem; much easier to choose favorite poems, but I suppose it could be said that what follows is my favorite poem of all time.  But only if I have to pick a favorite.

This poem, Final Soliloquy Of The Interior Paramour, happens to be by an American poet, Wallace Stevens.  It contains a line that I chose to be the name of this website, www.firstlightofevening.com

I hope you will enjoy this poem.  Let me know what you think…

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Final Soliloquy Of The Interior Paramour

Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one…
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.

                               — Wallace Stevens

 

This is Day 8 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue

#write31days

© debra valentino, all rights reserved, www.firstlightofevening.com

The Brain is a Heart

It’s February, and there’s lots of moaning and groaning going on about this worst winter for many (“worst” as in snow and more snow).  Also with winter comes the ensuing cabin fever, and sometimes, the downright blues.  And who could avoid them after a day like this past Sunday, when we woke to devastating news of the heroin overdose of acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, then suffered one of the worst football contests in Super Bowl history (Seattle Seahawks 43 over Denver Broncos 8).  How to process such a shocking loss of a remarkably talented man; although, with a blowout like that, at least for once we didn’t have to witness the further proliferation of NFL concussions.

There’s also on the horizon all the griping about Valentine’s Day by those who are jaded or have otherwise not been lucky in love.  Some people just hate Hallmark holidays, but this is America, damn it.  Pointlessly probably, I want to say, “It’s February!  The season of hearts and flowers, and (squeal) love poems.

I may want to tell you my whole life history of all the fun and romantic things I’ve done to celebrate love, which began in my childhood home as we joyously exclaimed, “Happy Valentino’s Day!”  …Of all the fun things I’ve got going on now in preparation.  That would be fun to write about, but in light of all we are facing, and instead of all the boycotting that might go on, I need to write about what matters more to me these days (or at least as much).

I say, why not love something we all truly should celebrate:  OUR BRAINS!   Yes, yes.  I hereby declare February “Love Your Brain” month.

Your heart is the seat of your soul, and it is an incredible organ worthy of much attention, but your brain, your brain…I’m telling you, people, it really is all about your brain!

Your brain is the most amazing organ in your body.  It literally controls the functioning of all your other organs—including the breaths you take.  You would be amazed at what becomes affected when your brain stops working optimally…a whole host of matters from muscle atrophy to slurred speech to severe fatigue.  And you would also be amazed at how the brain works to heal itself and all it can accomplish.  Both lists are greater than you can imagine.  But we can’t count on our brain’s incredible ability to rewire itself.  We have to pay attention to what goes on, because even if we are never impaired, one of our loved ones certainly might be.

Your brain is also responsible for some 70,000 thoughts a day.  Like most things, we don’t appreciate what we have going for us neurologically.  We waste time worrying about our body size and bankbooks, when what we really should be doing is treating our brain better and celebrating the phenomenal entity that is our brain.  Every action, every thought, every movement:  Your brain, your brain, your glorious brain.

Case in point, addiction is a disease, and when the diseased brain takes over, people make poor choices that can cost them their lives, as is the case with so many young people and too many Hollywood movie stars.  Acquired brain injury is not the same thing at all, but some of its effects are often confused by those who are uninformed or have been fortunate enough not to have experienced them.  I say fortunate enough not to have experienced, because really, brain injury can occur at any moment in a multitude of situations.  No one wants to suffer a brain injury; yet truly, anyone who is alive is at risk.  So, as long as you are healthy, you really should try not to complain.  Venting is good, so long as you keep in mind the bigger picture.  What’s a little snow when it affords you the opportunity to read and think? Use your brain to stay safe, to occupy your time, and to cope with unpleasant conditions.  I guarantee, if harm comes your way, it will be your brain that works hardest at getting you to survival and safety.  It will also be your brain that gets you to decide to stay off the streets, or to help someone who is in distress or in need.

We have so much to learn about both the healthy and the diseased brain that we can’t afford to waste time bemoaning bad weather or an unreceived box of chocolates, or anything else we think we want but don’t have.  We simply need to get busy understanding.  With knowledge comes change.  And oh, how we wish we could have saved so many of the precious souls we lost too soon to these conditions.

Let’s start our work now; let’s find out how we can prevent this epidemic of heroin and drug addiction from continuing.  Let’s learn how we can help those who suffer physical disabilities, and those who suffer from mental illness. Our brains are at the ready.  I know our hearts are in.  But it takes our brains, too.

So, please, spend this February loving and learning.  Study some brain science.    Learn about how your brain functions and all that it accomplishes.  Most of all, think happy thoughts and be grateful.  You are alive, and if you are here, you are reading.  I can’t think of two much greater things.  Love may break your heart, but living and reading will fill it.

So exclaim it with me, “I love my brain!” 

Be love.

Take care of your body, and be good to your brain.  

 

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© Debra A. Valentino, all rights reserved.